Tag Archives: breakthrough novel

Spreadsheets are the writer’s best friends

Well, maybe they are just this writer’s. Somehow, no matter what problem or challenge I’m facing, my first thought always turns to Excel. (Hmm, “Excel”…subliminal messaging? Or truth in advertising?)

Maybe it’s that whole idea of breaking a major problem into its component parts and tackling them one at a time. Maybe it’s tapping into the brain’s reward system, as I did last year, when watching the trend line of “actual words written” motivated me to finish the first draft of Shizzle, Inc. Or, most likely, it’s the fact that without a spreadsheet, or at least a to-do list, I would completely forget what I’m supposed to do or what I’ve already done…

Wait…what was I talking about?

To illustrate, here’s one of my “writer’s little helpers”, the word count tracking spreadsheet:

Shizzle word count log

You can see that the “actual” line is a bit jagged, and occasionally dips below the target, but all is well that ends well – and in this case I got what I wanted exactly when I wanted it – the draft was finished on the day the spreadsheet predicted that it would be.

The latest one is helping me track my progress towards landing a literary agent. Oh, I forgot to mention in my last post that in addition to everything else going wrong, my agent and I parted ways in a sort of messy divorce. So I’m back to square one in terms of plans on how to publish Shizzle, Inc. A depressing thought that only a tracking spreadsheet can fix. So here it is:

Selling Shizzle

It’s really simple. Paradoxically for a die-hard optimist, I expect to be rejected by agents. A lot. Let’s say 99 times out of 100. A simple logic would then dictate that in order to get one agent to believe into a future success of my totally rad first attempt at writing a novel, I will have to submit it to at least 100 agents.

As the spreadsheet shows, so far I’m up to 34 actual submissions. As an easy visualisation tool, the light grey shaded cells show all the agents to whom I’ve sent a query, and the more depressing dark grey ones, with strikethrough font, show the ones that sent a rejection letter or ignored me long enough to indicate a “no cigar” outcome.

So far my spreadsheets got me what I wanted, when I wanted it – 85,000 words in less than three months, and an apartment in about the same time frame. I will be very, very surprised if after 100 submissions I will not hook a single fish…er, agent. I’m not worried, though – if that happens, Miss Fix-it will make a spreadsheet on how to self-publish her “widely rejected” and “ignored by the best” debut.


Filed under Shizzle, Inc.

On breaking news and breaking rules

First, the news. After an agonising period of uncertainty and feverish online rumours, Amazon finally announced its 2014 Breakthrough Novel Award.

So, if you have a 50 – 125K original novel draft or you think you can get one together by the 2 March 2014 deadline, enter it for a chance to win the Grand Prize of $50,000! Only the first 10,000 submissions will be considered, so hurry!

Now, on breaking rules. The contest has many, such as rights to publication of the winner’s novel, judging and application procedures, etc. The one that automatically disqualifies my novel is the requirement to obtain concent of every person mentioned in the script by real name. My novel has endless references to the current pop culture and it’s stars, including quite a few jokes at the celebrities’ expense. This is generally accepted in the media, although I’m not sure as to which law governs it (but have a look at the film Dictator or one of the South Park episodes if you don’t believe me. I’m nowhere near that risqué).

Why, Amazon, why? I thought we were friends? I have bought so many books from you, but you don’t want my one and only?

Anyway, I can’t enter, so I hope you can. May the odds be ever in your favour!

By Ana Spoke

Leave a comment

Filed under General thoughts